I don’t buy mortadella that often. I used to. But mortadella is a dangerous thing. You buy it, and you eat it. But a few weeks ago, on a Saturday morning I had my beautiful pizza bianca that I had made during my pizza course with Gabriele Bonci. It was sitting there. Just asking to be topped by a piece of mortadella. It wasn’t a big piece of pizza, so I held myself back at the store, when buying the mortadella. “Just two slices, thin.” “No, make that three.” Just in case. So lunch was leftover pizza, including the mortadella-topped pizza bianca.
And as it turned out, there was actually only room for two slices atop the crispy white crust. And that is why I found myself with one lonely piece of mortadella on Sunday. Since I had eaten more pizza than I thought humanly possible for the past three days, I thought maybe vegetables should figure prominently for lunch. So the itty bitty piece of mortadella was the inspiration for this much more healthy, yet at the same time pork infused, string bean salad. Serving plain old steamed string beans seemed so, well, un-Sunday lunchish. The mortadella came to the rescue. And I have to say, that little bit-o-pork did a lot to the I-don’t-want-to-know-where-they-come-from winter string beans. It added just the right touch of oinkiness to an otherwise very veggie dish.
The trick to this dish is to prepare all the ingredients in the serving bowl, while the beans are cooking. You want to add the beans to the dressing while they are still piping hot, so that they sort of cook the shallots and garlic, and coax the fat nodules out of the mortadella. I actually make a similar version of this dish all summer long, using a mixture of tomatoes and basil, with garlic and red onions.
The same goes for this: place piping hot string beans into dressing. String Beans and Mortadella 1/2 kilo (1 pound) string beans, cleaned 1 thin slice mortadella 1 shallot 1 garlic clove 2 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon 1/4 cup chopped, roasted almonds rind from Meyer lemon rind from 1 small orange 3 tablespoons meyer lemon juice 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice salt and pepper Steam string beans, until tender.
In the meantime place in bowl: mortadella, chopped into small pieces. Chopped shallot, crushed garlic, olive oil, chopped tarragon and juices. Carefully peel the rind off the orange and lemon, with a potato peeler, and chop finely. Add to bowl. Stir to mix well. When beans are done, lift them out of the pot and add them, still steaming hot, to the mixture in the bowl. Toss well and add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool, toss again and top with almonds. Serve room temperature.